Growing up, my immediate family celebrated a rather traditional Christmas. We gleefully tore open packages and gifts on December 25 and ate the traditional Christmas spread of foods. With extended family, however, Christmas looked a bit different.
My Granny and Papa knew that once their boys got married and started having kids, Christmas would have to take a different shape in order for various family schedules to align. They decided the best way to get the whole family together for Christmas would be to gather during Thanksgiving week. On Thanksgiving Day, we would get together to participate in the classic Thanksgiving traditions, but on Black Friday, we would celebrate Christmas!
Now Christmas in Jasper, Texas, wasn’t just a turkey supper and some mashed potatoes but a full-on cajun shrimp boil. Plates and silverware weren’t even a thought as we spread trash bags and newspaper over the tables and dumped the steaming shrimp, potatoes, and corn down the middle of the table. As a child, I assumed this was how every child celebrated Christmas with grandparents, but I soon learned this was not the case–that my grandparents had set aside their preferences in order to provide grace and space for their sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren. Instead of having to run “hither and yon” during the busy December Christmas season, my family got to spend time together at an alternative time that made sense for everyone.
I am struck by this loving humility shown by my grandparents and extended family, reflecting Jesus’ words to His disciples: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). As I enter this Advent season, my goal is to find ways to love others in unexpected ways. I hope to recognize when others are in the midst of busy or tumultuous times and give them grace and space the way my Granny and Papa did with all of us.
— Kelsey Cogliano